Galway Harbour will become the first Irish project to apply for planning permission on grounds of “overriding public interest” when an application is lodged next month. Galway Harbour Company CEO Eamon Bradshaw told the Galway Independent this week that the application for the major development, which will include the extension of the current Port across 59 acres of reclaimed land, was ’99 per cent ready to go’ and would be submitted by end of June.
The application will be lodged through Article 6.4 of the EU Habitats Directive, with allows for projects with a negative impact on the environment to proceed where there are ‘Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest’ (IROPI). Mr Bradshaw said the Natura Impact Statement had now been completed and the economic and financial details were currently being finalised. The development will extend 935m out to sea, providing 660m of quay berth, and will consist of berthing facilities for general cargo vessels, oil tankers, passenger vessels, fishing vessels and container vessels. A western marina will also be formed, providing 216 amenity berths. The development will also contain Roll on/Roll off facilities and berths for naval/research vessels, while breakwaters will be constructed to provide shelter and craft stability. The project will be completed in four stages and the initial works will include the reclamation of 19.86 hectares of quay areas and back-up lands, as well as the formation of a 400m x 30m quay, construction of a 200m x 20m quay and the dredging of channels and a 400m diameter turning circle.
The project will make history by being the first to apply under the IROPI scheme, with the Galway City Outer Bypass also expected to progress under this legislation in the next few years. Mr Bradshaw said the company had been working very closely with An Bord Pleanála, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, EU officials and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on the application to ensure that it complies with EU planning legislation and said that he would be happy to “advise and support” Galway City and County Councils in similar submissions going forward.
“It is a long road. There is an incredible amount of detail that has to be gone through; there’s a lot of reports to be prepared. The Impact Statement is of vital importance when you going out into a habitat and that’s where the issue arises both with ourselves and the Galway City Outer Bypass,” he explained. As no previous IROPI applications have been made from Ireland, it is not known how long the process will take but it is envisaged that a decision could be available within 12 months and, if successful, construction is mooted to begin in 2014. While the Government has yet to commit to funding for the project, Mr Bradshaw has previously indicated that a “whole series of funding options” are being investigated, including the disposal of unnecessary assets, borrowing and outside investment. It was announced in March that Galway Port is to be taken into the ownership of local authorities in Galway in the coming years as part of a new National Ports Policy, which aims to give the Government a more hands-on role in the maritime ports sector. Under the plans, Galway Port is designated as a third-tier ‘port of regional significance’ and is earmarked for development principally in regional freight, leisure, aquaculture facilities, urban regeneration or cultural and recreational amenities.